Several weeks ago, an anonymous U.N. official called America’s initial $15 million donation to tsunami relief “stingy.” Perhaps as a reaction to this statement or perhaps in response to the increasing body count, the United States eventually gave $350 million dollars in aid to Southeast Asia, second only to Japan as the leading donor.
Although this feat of generosity was under the microscope of the world and perhaps lacked the integrity of subtler, more anonymous charity, $350 million is still a tremendous amount of money and is something America should be commended for. But a donation of this magnitude is not typical of the United States.
According to New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, America is now ranked 22 among donors to poor countries. Yes, the richest nation in the world, with the largest GDP and national income is 22. That’s not a statistic to be proud of, let alone one sufficient in aiding the five million children dying every year of curable diseases.
America doesn’t have a problem giving when the entire world is watching and gladly donates when the deaths of thousands are plastered across the front pages. But because the four million dying of AIDS and malaria yearly aren’t in daily headlines, our government doesn’t feel the need to pour resources into solving these problems.
A Columbia University economist estimates if the United States’ malaria contributions increased to $2 or $3 billion annually, one million children could be saved.
Recognizing that such poverty around the world was a major issue every fortunate country should contribute to, the United Nations developed a program called the U.N. Millennium Declaration. Every country that signed it was to work toward donating only 0.7 percent of their national income every year. The United States, to this day, only gives about 0.14 percent.
This number lags behind Britain, France, Norway and Sweden, according to The New York Times.
The problem here is not necessarily on the current administration. President Bush has increased aid to poor nations one-fifth and has been much better about foreign aid than Bill Clinton, as reported in The New York Times. A thumbs-up goes to Bush for this feat.
I will criticize every single American who is financially stable and can afford to donate to such causes, but doesn’t. Ultimately, if our government isn’t doing its job correctly, the weight of this massive burden falls on us.
It’s easy to write a column encouraging our nation’s citizens to give more aid. It’s simple to criticize the current policies of America in an effort to cause reform. I can sit here, on my shiny laptop, kicking and screaming for donations as I enjoy my three meals a day.
I can cry all I want and be as sympathetic as I want, while I take advantage of an expensive education and think I’ve done my part.
But at the end of the day, when one is done complaining, he must ask himself, “What have I done?” It’s questions like this and action that follows that will cause change.
Forget that soft drink, don’t go see that movie, don’t buy that magazine. Sacrifice in the name of poverty. Perhaps, for just a few hours a day we can be slightly uncomfortable so that a young boy or girl in Africa can afford medication.
The problem is here and it won’t go away no matter how many people ignore it.
We have a responsibility to find a solid charity and donate a portion of our income to fight poverty and disease. Our protest and our cries for change don’t mean anything if we aren’t doing this.
I’m not excusing our government. It is at fault without a doubt. But its ineptness, its lack of compassion and its pitiful donation efforts don’t excuse us. We must give, we must sacrifice. The calling is on us as much as it is on Washington.
Jonathan Rashid can be reached at iJonny@Gmail.com.